Clarence Ashley-Coo Coo Bird
Recorded on October 23, 1929 in Johnson City, Tennessee. Greil Marcus describes this tunes as a "folk-lyric" tune "made up of verbal fragments that had no direct or logical relationship to each other." Ashley's banjo is tuned to G-modal, also referred to as Sawmill tuning. Some folklorists note that the cuckoo is an ancient symbol for the coming of summer.
Source 78rpm>CD>MP3Run time 2:58
November 8, 2004
For those who don't know this, Clarence "Tom" Ashley was mainly responsible for guitar great Doc Watson's "discovery" in the early 60s.
Ashley plays in a style of banjo which was very prevalent at that time in the Southern mountains, called by various names such as: "clawhammer", "frailing" "rapping", and the like.
The technique is to hit some banjer strings with a fingernail and hit the head at the same time.
Mr. Ashley's singing style is though, what a lot of oldtime banjer pickers like me would call "the high lonesome sound".
But, there is one singer who went even higher and more lonesome than he. It was Roscoe Holcomb.
June 12, 2004
I downloaded quite a few of the recordings in the "78s" category, but this is the one I found myself listening to repeatedly. Expert, intense banjo pickin' ...the musical equivalent of two cups of coffee. And Ashley's voice has a haunted, obsessive quality I haven't the right words to describe.